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Local News

Leading Off (9/23/22)

Matt Goodman
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Major Gridlock in Insurance Negotiations. If you’re insured through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and seek care at UT Southwestern Medical Center or Texas Health Resources, you’re going to want to pay attention to what’s happening around the bargaining table. If the parties don’t reach an agreement by October 4—and, to be fair, someone almost always blinks before deadline—more than 450,000 patients will face out-of-network prices for their care. These sorts of things happen, and especially between these specific stakeholders: talks broke down in 2016 and 2018 before reaching an agreement.

Remembering the Driver Who Died When 18 Wheeler Tumbled Over Central. I linked to the incident earlier this week, now we need to meet the man. Gustavo Gomez, 71, was killed when his 18-wheeler collided with another vehicle and appeared to lose control, sending it tumbling over Central down onto Stacy Road. His family remembers him as a jokester, but they also say he had a clean driving record and had worked for the same company for 20 years.

Wolfe City Officer Not Guilty in Deadly Shooting. Wolfe City is in Hunt County, about an hour northeast of Dallas. In October 2020, Ofc. Shaun Lucas arrived at a convenience store to break up an argument between two people, one of whom was a man named Jonathan Price. The matter continued outside, which is where things go sideways: prosecutors say Price was not a threat, followed commands, and was shot anyway. Defense attorneys say Price resisted and Lucas had to deploy a taser, which Price tried to grab before he was shot. A jury spent a few hours deliberating before returning a verdict of not guilty.

Summer or Fall: Who’s To Say? Looking at a sunny weekend with highs in the mid-90s. Fake fall is back!

Last year, North Texas Giving Day raised $66 million dollars through 103,000 donors, benefiting more than 3,300 local nonprofits during an 18-hour period. Today the online giving event will aim to top that. 

The premise is simple: Thousands of nonprofits sign up to fundraise, and Communities Foundation of Texas provides a platform for donors all over the country to give to their favorite (or new) charities throughout the day. This year, the foundation is partnering with the technology platform Mightycause, which it says will help potential donors find charities that align with their interests and pet causes. 

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Joshua Rictor

“Each year thousands of donors show up for our community nonprofits and this year, we want to help all donors—those who have participated before and those that may participate for the first time—identify their unique passions and make gifts that can help make our communities safe spaces to be well, be happy, and be whole,” said Monica Christopher, senior vice president and chief giving and community impact officer at CFT. “We want to continue to grow the spirit of giving by engaging and activating more donors as each individual gift, no matter the size, helps the collective.” 

Local News

Leading Off (9/22/22)

Bethany Erickson
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Dallas Officials Caught Off Guard by August Flooding. Dallas emergency management director Rocky Vaz said that while the National Weather Service issued a flood watch before the Aug. 21 rain began, it underestimated how much precipitation the area would get over the two-day period. In Wednesday’s city council briefing, Vaz explained that for the first hours of the torrential rainfall, there was no coordinated response between first responders, public works, and the emergency management department.

Keller Officials Remove Library’s Banned Book Week Post. Some Keller residents are questioning the decision to remove a post about Banned Book Week on the city library’s Facebook page. “City leadership was concerned that residents would think we were trying to cause controversy, given recent debates about books in the school district, so we removed it as that was certainly not the intent,” a spokesperson said. “We still invite our residents to celebrate Banned Books Week with us at the library this week, as we do every year.”

Family of Slain Irving Woman Awarded $1.1 Billion from Charter Spectrum. Dallas Judge Juan Renteria ordered Charter Spectrum to pay $1.1 billion to the family of Betty Thomas, who was robbed and stabbed to death in her Irving home by Roy Holden, one of the company’s cable technicians, in 2019. Court testimony revealed that the company hired Holden without verifying his employment history, after removing an employee screening program in 2016.

Nasher Prize Awarded to African American Woman for the First Time. The Nasher Sculpture Center awarded the 2023 Nasher Prize to Senga Nengudi. Nengudi is the first African American woman to win the prize, and the third American to receive it. Nengudi will receive the $100,000 prize at a special ceremony in Dallas on April 1, 2023.

No. If you like bad decisions and convenience stores, Dallas-based 7-Eleven and footwear company Crocs are pairing up to offer three limited edition atrocities Crocs. The “shoes” include custom 7-Eleven-related Jibbitz charms, including a Slurpee, the logo, and more. Prices start at $50.

Local News

Dallas’ Decision to Dim Night Lights Is For the Birds

Bethany Erickson
By |
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You can save an Indigo Bunting or three if you just dim your outdoor lights for a few weeks, experts say. Courtesy Israel Alapag/Pixabay

Almost 88,000 birds flew over Dallas County between Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and 7:10 a.m. this morning, migrating south in preparation for the winter. The number of winged commuters above us peaked at 21,800 birds sometime shortly after 10 p.m., according to BirdCast, which provides migratory data on birds on a daily basis.

While we were all sleeping, Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Dickcissels were among avian flyovers trying to reach warmer temperatures before colder weather sets in.

But your porch light might be throwing them off a bit, experts say. Lights from porch lights and even big buildings attract the birds, which often leads to collisions with buildings as they become disoriented, killing nearly one billion birds each year, according to the Texas Conservation Alliance .

Yesterday, the twice-yearly “Lights Out Texas” initiative kicked into gear in an effort to help all those birds complete their fall migration.

Local News

Leading Off (9/21/22)

Matt Goodman
By |

Tractor Trailer Flies off Central, Kills Driver. This footage is insane: an 18-wheeler collides with another vehicle near the Stacy Road exit, which sends the tractor trailer up the wall of the highway and over. It falls to the road below and goes up in flames. The driver has not been identified and no one else was injured.

D.A. Hopeful Says She’ll Seek the Death Penalty. District Attorney John Creuzot hasn’t pursued the death penalty in a capital murder case since winning the office in 2018. His Republican challenger, Faith Johnson, says she would seek it, especially for cases like Billy Chemirmir, the man accused of killing 18 elderly people in robberies across Dallas and Collin counties. Johnson was the county D.A. from 2016 to 2018, after being appointed by the governor following Susan Hawk’s resignation.

Chief Eddie Garcia Fires Two Officers, Suspends One. Sgt. James Bristo was accused of using “unnecessary and/or inappropriate force against a citizen” and was fired following a discipline hearing. He also didn’t file a standard form after the incident and then “engaged in adverse conduct,” which led him to be arrested for official oppression. Sgt. Carlos Valarezo lost his job after Garcia determined he violated city code for making unwelcome jokes or comments “that interferes with another employee’s working conditions.” Sgt. Kung Seng got suspended for giving false testimony in a court proceeding.

H-E-B Opens in Frisco. And hundreds of shoppers poured in at 6 a.m. to … buy groceries. Hopefully they loaded up on those butter tortillas.

Local News

A 63-Mile Bus Tour Highlighted Dallas’ Environmental Injustices. What Comes Next?

Bethany Erickson
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Volunteers load water and groceries into cars at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Sand Branch every Saturday. The unincorporated community has relied on bottled water since the 1980s after the water in its wells became contaminated. Bethany Erickson

The line of cars queued to pull into the parking lot of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Sand Branch on Saturday snaked down Burns Drive and around the corner to Beltline Road. Volunteers called out numbers—“2!” or “3!”—to tell runners how many cases of water to put in the trunk of each vehicle as it pulled forward. A group of people on an environmental justice bus tour led by Southern Sector Rising and environmental nonprofit Taproot Earth were temporarily pressed into service in a bid to move cars out faster. 

“If you can tell people anything,” a volunteer said, “tell them that we need help. We need help every Saturday, but these people also need drinking water in their homes.”

The community sits in unincorporated land in Dallas County near Seagoville, about 20 miles south of downtown Dallas. It has been decades since it had running water. Sand Branch is a freedman’s town was established in the 1800s, and until the 1980s residents received water through wells dug throughout the community. Without access to a sewage system—despite being so close to the Dallas Southside Wastewater Treatment plant that they can smell it—residents rely on septic tanks. 

In the mid-’80s, residents began to worry that the water coming from those wells was making people sick. Dallas County tested it, and found that it had been contaminated with E.coli. Since then, there have been numerous efforts to bring water permanently to the area, but so far, none have come to fruition. That’s partly because of a 2003 Federal Emergency Management Agency ruling that found the area was in violation of county floodplain regulations.

Local News

Despite Unhappy Neighbors, Replacing Old Lochwood Church with Apartments Is One Step Closer to Approval

Bethany Erickson
By |
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Ojala Holdings' proposed development, The Standard Shoreline, would place 300 multifamily units on the Garland Road property formerly owned by Shoreline City Church. Courtesy Ojala Holdings

Ojala Holdings, the developer that plans to build a 300-unit apartment complex on Garland Road where Shoreline City Church was located, got its first win last week. The Dallas City Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of rezoning the property from single family residential to a planned development that would allow for multifamily apartments and mixed use. 

Getting to a unanimous vote took nine months, 60 discussions (some in the form of community meetings, some in the form of conversations with residents), and a lot of finagling. The project, dubbed The Standard Shoreline, can now advance to the City Council. Some of the public meetings were packed with neighbors who shouted at public officials and alleged that the development would attract crime and allow renters to see into their properties.

All told, Ojala Holdings is proposing 300 units, 282 in the form of a four-story apartment complex, and 18 townhomes. The developer has agreed to provide 51 percent of the units as workforce housing, meaning it would be rented to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income for Dallas—people like teachers and first responders. (For a single person, that would be between $37,380 and $49,850; a family of four would need to earn between $53,400 and $71,200.)

It also has plans for an art park, office space, an enclosed parking garage, and 25,000 square feet of greenspace.

The project would be a partnership with the Dallas Public Facility Corporation. The city of Dallas would own the land and Ojala would own the buildings. If previous PFC partnerships are any indication, the city will give Ojala a 75-year property tax exemption and require a flat structuring fee. Past arrangements have been in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars. Ojala would enter into a lease agreement that would be a percentage of the taxes it would have been responsible for without the incentives. The percentage will increase by about 3 percent annually, and, based on previous deals, will likely start at 25 percent of the total.

Other protections can be built into the contract. For instance, Dallas could allow city crews to fix maintenance problems if they aren’t addressed by the developer in a timely manner, for which the city could then bill Ojala.

On Thursday, the number of people speaking for and against the project was about equal. On one hand, affordable housing advocates argued that the desperate need for workforce housing in Dallas made this project desirable. But many residents were unhappy despite the changes to the original plan, citing issues with stormwater retention, increased traffic, the 60-foot height of the 282-unit multifamily apartments that will be built in addition to 18 townhomes, and the way the project is financed. 

The latter, CPC chair Tony Shidid reminded speakers, was not something the commission was charged with considering. Commissioner Michael Jung, who represents District 9—including Lochwood and the church property—acknowledged the concern about the financing, but added, “That is not a land use consideration, and concerns about that aspect of the project should be directed elsewhere.”

Local News

Leading Off (9/20/22)

Tim Rogers
By |

Bomb Threat in Funkytown. Yesterday Fort Worth shut down all its libraries early because someone made a “credible” bomb threat in an email that appeared to come from outside the United States.

Dr. Heart Attack Denied Bond. Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr., the anesthesiologist accused of tampering with IV bags and causing multiple serious cardiac complications and at least one death, will remain in custody. At the hearing, a federal prosecutor called Ortiz a “medical terrorist.”

Dallas Changes Approach to Dealing With Homeless Camps. After armed activists showed up earlier this summer to confront city workers who were set to eradicate a homeless camp, the city is taking “a more collaborative approach.”

Two Local Restaurants Make NYT List. The Times just published its list of the 50 best restaurants in America. On the list: Sister, on Lower Greenville, and Smoke’N Ash B.B.Q., in Arlington.

Local News

Leading Off (9/19/22)

Zac Crain
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Cowboys Win. The second half definitely felt like it was setting up for a gut-punch loss. The Bengals had been steadily coming back after going down 17-3 in the first half, to the point that the tying two-point conversion felt inevitable. And then the Cowboys had to punt. But the defense held, they got the ball back, and Brett Maher won it with a 50-yard field goal as time expired. Mike and the StrongSide gang will break it down like a fraction.

FC Dallas Clinches Playoff Berth. They did it with a 1-1 draw Saturday night. “But, we want more,” first-year coach Nico Estevez said after. “We always want more. We don’t get complacent and I think this team can do really good things ahead.”

Nude Man Burglarizes Home. According to Dallas police, they responded to a burglary call not far from the Mockingbird/Abrams intersection. When they arrived, the homeowners told them that a naked man was inside. By then, he was apparently on the roof. When the naked man saw the cops, he got down and ran across a creek. Eventually, he was apprehended and taken to Lew Sterrett. A real clothes call.

Local News

Leading Off (9/16/22)

Matt Goodman
By |

Case Against Richardson Anesthesiologist Expands. Dr. Raynoldo Rivera Ortiz was arrested on Wednesday on charges that he put drugs in IV bags that caused unexpected “cardiac emergencies” at an outpatient surgery center in North Dallas. On Thursday, federal officials tied him to another 10 such events that occurred following “otherwise unremarkable surgeries.” As Will reported yesterday, Ortiz was caught on camera tampering with the IV bags in a warmer.

Hit and Run Driver Who Killed Cyclist Arrested. Billy Watley, 45, was struck by a white SUV while riding his bike in southeast Dallas. The driver stops, gets out, then gets back in the car and drives away. Police say that was 29-year-old Kenneth Connors, who has been charged with an accident involving death.

The State’s Largest Demographic Group Is Now Hispanic Texans. The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey found that Hispanic residents account for 40.2 percent of Texas’ population while non-Hispanic White Texans make up 39.4 percent. As the Texas Tribune reports, “the new estimates are the first to reflect the foreseeable culmination of decades of demographic shifts steadily transforming the state.”

Happy 104th Birthday, El Fenix. The downtown Tex-Mex joint in the legendary old building attracted hundreds of diners who lined up down the street to get in.

Local News

Floral Farms, Once Home to Shingle Mountain, Finally Gets a Chance to Remove Industry

Bethany Erickson
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The Floral Farms community took its first step in three years in the process of possibly changing the zoning in the neighborhood. Bethany Erickson

Property owners in the Floral Farms neighborhood of southern Dallas have been waiting since 2019 for the city to begin considering rezoning the area to prevent another Shingle Mountain. On Monday night, city officials finally met with the neighbors to explain what’s coming, a process known as an authorized hearing.

It wasn’t without a little bit of angst as residents and industrial and commercial landowners voiced their competing concerns.

For many outside this southern Dallas community, Floral Farms became synonymous with the giant pile of shingles that was Marsha Jackson’s illegal neighbor for over a year. That pile was allowed to grow to 60 feet high partly because of peculiarities in the zoning—some of the area is still zoned for agricultural uses because of the nurseries that once supplied area florists with blooms. A great deal of the Floral Farms area is zoned for industrial use, and some is zoned for commercial use. Residents, like Jackson, often live in those agricultural quadrants and are adjacent to scrap yards and other dirty businesses not present in more affluent communities.

Residential landowners here say that the city’s mishmash of zoning rules made it possible for the land adjacent to Jackson’s home to be used first as an illegal shingle dump and now as a metal salvage yard.

Last month, Jackson signed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was filed by several advocacy groups, including Floral Farms Neighbors United/Vecinos Unidos association, the Joppa Environmental Health Project, and the Coalition for Neighborhood Self-Determination. The complaint accuses the city of Dallas of violating the Fair Housing Act by zoning heavy industry into their predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, a rarity in majority White neighborhoods.

The city voted in 2019 to make the Floral Farms neighborhood a priority for rezoning but didn’t place it high on the list—this summer, its authorized hearing was still ninth in line.

The change is important to residents because current zoning, they say, makes it difficult to get loans to repair or purchase homes. They want an environmental justice overlay district that would limit industrial work directly adjacent to, or even sometimes right in the middle of, residential areas like West Dallas and Floral Farms.

This brings us to Monday, when the city held its first community meeting to explain the process of what’s to come. The area subject to the hearing encompasses about 522 acres and is bordered by Julius Schepps Freeway to the west, McCommas Bluff Road to the south, the Union Pacific Railroad to the east, and River Oaks Road to the north. 

Local News

Leading Off (9/15/22)

Bethany Erickson
By |

Allen 18-Wheeler Accident Kills One. Police in Allen Wednesday responded to an 18-wheeler accident that left the big rig dangling off the overpass. The accident, which killed the driver of the semi, also snarled traffic on U.S. Highway 75, shutting down four lanes of traffic.

Doctor Arrested in Connection to Compromised IV Case. Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. was arrested Wednesday in connection with a criminal investigation into compromised IV bags. Dallas police did not say what Ortiz was charged with, but said he was taken into custody in Plano. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas will release more information soon. Ortiz is part of an ongoing investigation into Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas patients who suffered serious cardiac complications, as well as the death of Dr. Melanie Kaspar.

Abbott Requests Disaster Declaration for Flooding. Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that he has requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration after August’s massive flooding in North Texas. The designation would make federal assistance available for those impacted in Dallas, Collin, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman, Rockwall, and Tarrant counties. If approved, the program would provide long-term, low-interest loans through the SBA’s disaster grant programs to qualifying Texans.

New Poll Shows Abbott With 5-point Lead Over O’Rourke. A new University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll found that 52 percent of Texans were supportive of Gov. Abbott’s policy to bus migrants awaiting asylum hearings to other parts of the country. Fifty-seven said that Texas officials have done “too little” to prevent mass shootings, and 54 percent were in favor of stricter gun laws. Abbott still holds a 5-point lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

Man Who Shot Mesquite Officer Found Guilty. A jury found Jamie Jaramillo guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of Richard Houston, a 21-year veteran Mesquite police officer who responded to a domestic call in 2021. Jaramillo will spend the rest of his life in prison without parole.